Consumer Cellular grows in Redmond

Company employs 400 at call center, expects to add 200 more

By Joseph Ditzler / The Bulletin

REDMOND — Alana Borden, 29, one of 400 employees at the Consumer Cellular call center on Southwest Sixth Street, approached the top bosses, the company owners, on Friday during their visit.

Consumer Cellular, which operates three call centers, since 1995 has provided no-contract, low-cost cellular phone service nationwide. It focuses on a niche market: consumers ages 50 and over, and Borden, who started her job Monday expressed her opinion of the company’s business model.

“This is such a great idea,” said the former stay-at-home mom, now with a degree in business management. “You will make so much money.”

Formerly an employee at the same facility when it belonged to T-Mobile, Borden said the atmosphere inside had gone from rigid to relaxed. She made lots of sales in her first week, she told CEO John Marick and his business partner, Chief Operating Officer Greg Pryor.

“We like to hear that,” said Marick, 49.

Marick and Pryor, 48, said Friday they plan to expand the call center — they call it a contact center — by adding 200 employees by summer’s end. The company takes applications on its website, www.consumer

The company Marick and Pryor founded is growing by 30 percent to 35 percent each year, thanks to their business plan and a partnership starting in 2008 with AARP.

“I think it’s one of the best decisions we made,” Marick said Friday. “We felt that there was a real void for somebody that just wanted the benefits of cellular … but wasn’t wanting to spend a fortune on it and wasn’t going to be … the business power user.”

Consumer Cellular went “full bore” on the senior market in 2009, he said. The result is phenomenal growth for the Tigard-based company: about $355 million in revenue last year, nearly 1,000 employees and 1.2 million customers.

Consumer Cellular tailors its products and services to its clientele, Marick and Pryor said. It operates a nationwide virtual network through AT&T. Consumer Cellular added the iPhone 5, with a finance plan, to its inventory last year, as smartphone use increased among baby boomers.

“You get all the benefits of a contract, but we don’t sign you up; we don’t make you commit to the long term,” Marick said. “So, effectively, every day you’re making that decision whether you’re going to continue to do business with us or not.”

In April, Consumer Cellular begins a try-out, selling phones in Target stores in Arizona. If successful, Marick sees potential to expand into other Target markets as early as October. The company already sells its products nationwide through Sears.

Friday, the partners focused on their employees in Redmond. Consumer Cellular took over the center just west of Redmond Airport about two months after T-Mobile left in 2012, laying off 360 workers.

Employee turnover in Redmond hovers around 5 percent annually, Pryor said. The company loses about 10 percent in its centers in Portland and Phoenix; as a whole, the industry typically turns over a fourth or more of its employees, he said.

Patricia Sargent, Redmond contact center manager, said Redmond employees see their bosses’ commitment to the company.

“What employees tend to say the most is there’s a personal investment, and that’s the difference,” she said. “In this company, they feel like their leaders are personally invested in their success. So, in turn, they’re invested in that customer’s success, personally.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815